As a mother protects with her life

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As a mother protects with her life

Postby Coyote » Sun May 12, 2013 12:01 pm

(taken from the thread in general and posted here as the resident Pali experts may be more likely to notice it)

"As a mother would risk her life
to protect her child, her only child,
even so should one cultivate a limitless heart
with regard to all beings
." (trans. Thanissaro)

In a dhamma talk by Ven Thanissaro he mentioned that the phrase mentioned above refers not to the quality of the metta, but to the care and protection put into cultivating the metta itself.

"Some people misread this passage—in fact, many translators have mistranslated it—thinking that the Buddha is telling us to cherish all living beings the same way a mother would cherish her only child. But that’s not what he’s actually saying. To begin with, he doesn’t mention the word “cherish” at all. And instead of drawing a parallel between protecting your only child and protecting other beings, he draws the parallel between protecting the child and protecting your goodwill. This fits in with his other teachings in the Canon."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/metta_means_goodwill.pdf

What do those here knowledgeable about Pali say?
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: As a mother protects with her life

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun May 12, 2013 4:28 pm

This is the Pāḷi text referred to:

Mātā yathā niyaṃ puttamāyusā ekaputtamanurakkhe.
Evampi sabbabhūtesu, mānasaṃ bhāvaye aparimāṇaṃ.

This is the Suttanipāta Commentary to the verse:
149. Evaṃ ahitadukkhānāgamapatthanāvasena atthato mettābhāvanaṃ dassetvā idāni tameva upamāya dassento āha ‘‘mātā yathā niyaṃ putta’’nti.

Tassattho – yathā mātā niyaṃ puttaṃ attani jātaṃ orasaṃ puttaṃ, tañca ekaputtameva āyusā anurakkhe, tassa dukkhāgamapaṭibāhanatthaṃ attano āyumpi cajitvā taṃ anurakkhe, evampi sabbabhūtesu idaṃ mettamānasaṃ bhāvaye, punappunaṃ janaye vaḍḍhaye, tañca aparimāṇasattārammaṇavasena ekasmiṃ vā satte anavasesapharaṇavasena aparimāṇaṃ bhāvayeti.

From a quick look at that, it seems that the traditional translation is correct — evampi sabbabhūtesu idaṃ mettamānasaṃ bhāvaye = thus too, upon all beings, one cultivates a mind of loving-kindness.
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Re: As a mother protects with her life

Postby fivebells » Sun May 12, 2013 7:17 pm

Ven. Pesala, is that Buddhaghosa's commentary? If so, isn't citing it to resolve an ambiguity in favor of the traditional translation a bit circular?
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Re: As a mother protects with her life

Postby Coyote » Sun May 12, 2013 8:16 pm

Thanks for the commentary bhante. But as fivebells suggested I am more interested in what the Pali grammer says about how it should be translated and what it means.
Is there ambiguity in the verse about what the object of the simile is? Is the translation in your post "thus too, upon all beings, one cultivates a mind of loving-kindness." a literal one? If so it would seem to support the traditional interpretation.

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"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: As a mother protects with her life

Postby binocular » Mon May 13, 2013 5:36 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:From a quick look at that, it seems that the traditional translation is correct — evampi sabbabhūtesu idaṃ mettamānasaṃ bhāvaye = thus too, upon all beings, one cultivates a mind of loving-kindness.

The issue is with the part before that:

Should one be willing to give one's life for other living beings?

Or should one be willing to give one's life for one's metta for them?
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Re: As a mother protects with her life

Postby mikenz66 » Mon May 13, 2013 7:06 am

Is it possible it's not a matter of the grammar? There is a simile of being as protective as a mother for her only child. There is the cultivation of boundless metta towards all beings. Whether the simile applies to the cultivation or to the metta itself is the question.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu has an interesting argument based on examining other suttas. Others, such as Bhikkhu Bodhi in his lessons on the Sutta Nipata, gives the more common interpretation that the feeling one should cultivate is like the love of a mother for her only child.
See http://bodhimonastery.org/sutta-nipata.html
Sn 1.8 Mettā Sutta — Loving-kindness (part 2), from about 21:40 (where Bhikkhu Bodhi reads the verse in Pali).

:anjali:
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Re: As a mother protects with her life

Postby binocular » Mon May 13, 2013 9:08 am

Compare:


Thanissaro Bhikkhu:
As a mother would risk her life
to protect her child, her only child,
even so should one cultivate a limitless heart
with regard to all beings.


Nanamoli Thera:
And just as might a mother with her life
Protect the son that was her only child,
So let him then for every living thing
Maintain unbounded consciousness in being;


The Amaravati Sangha:
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;


Acharya Buddharakkhita
Just as with her own life
A mother shields from hurt
Her own son, her only child,
Let all-embracing thoughts
For all beings be yours.


Piyadassi Thera
"Just as a mother would protect her only child with her life even so let one cultivate a boundless love towards all beings.
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Re: As a mother protects with her life

Postby binocular » Mon May 13, 2013 9:09 am

mikenz66 wrote:Thanissaro Bhikkhu has an interesting argument based on examining other suttas.


For example, the simile of the saw:

"Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: 'Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.' That's how you should train yourselves.
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Re: As a mother protects with her life

Postby Coyote » Mon May 13, 2013 12:05 pm

binocular wrote:Should one be willing to give one's life for other living beings?

Or should one be willing to give one's life for one's metta for them?


Give one's life for the metta for them seems more appropriate. Sacrificing your life for another doesn't seem right, but it does get across the extent you are willing to go in loving-kindness.

mikenz66 wrote:Is it possible it's not a matter of the grammar? There is a simile of being as protective as a mother for her only child. There is the cultivation of boundless metta towards all beings. Whether the simile applies to the cultivation or to the metta itself is the question.


I was just hoping the Pali grammer would help in understanding the meaning of the passage.
For example: does the "for so" in Thanissaro's translation refer to the "limitless heart" or the "in regard to all beings"? It could be "for so should one cultivate a limitless heart", as he has translated it, the "for so" referring grammatically to the cultivation. Or it could be "for so in regard to limitless beings should one cultivate..." in which case it might support Ven. Thanissaro's understanding. I have no idea how Pali works, but such ways of phrasing are possible in Greek due to the use of cases.

Anyone willing to break down the passage word by word, literally? Or does anyone know of a particularly literal translation?

binocular wrote:For example, the simile of the saw:


Are you suggesting this supports Ven. Thanissaro's interpretation?
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: As a mother protects with her life

Postby Rasko » Mon May 13, 2013 12:10 pm

binocular wrote:Compare:
...

"Just as a mother would protect with her life
her own son, her only son,
so one should cultivate an unbounded mind
towards all beings,"

(trans. K.R.Norman, The Group of Discourses, 2nd ed, PTS 2001)
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Re: As a mother protects with her life

Postby piotr » Mon May 13, 2013 2:35 pm

Hi,

Coyote wrote:Anyone willing to break down the passage word by word, literally? Or does anyone know of a particularly literal translation?


Norman's translation above is good and literal.

As Mike pointed out it's not a matter of grammar but of understanding the simile. I think venerable Ṭhānissaro is right. Mettā is not an attitude of mother towards her only son (i.e. a very strong attachment which brings suffering as some suttas point out) but it's a peaceful attitude of wishing wellbeing. As I see it, this verse says that one should be attached to cultivation of mettā towards all living beings as mother is attached to her only son.
Bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā...
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Re: As a mother protects with her life

Postby binocular » Mon May 13, 2013 6:47 pm

Coyote wrote:
binocular wrote:
binocular wrote:For example, the simile of the saw:


Are you suggesting this supports Ven. Thanissaro's interpretation?

Yes.
The simile of the saw is that even if people were to torture and kill you in the most horrible way, that is no justification for harboring ill will; instead, you should still have goodwill.
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Re: As a mother protects with her life

Postby Sylvester » Tue May 14, 2013 8:45 am

From Bhante Dhammanando's FB post -

“mātā yathā niyam puttaṃ, āyusā ekaputtam anurakkhe,
evampi sabbabhūtesu, mānasam bhāvaye aparimāṇaṃ.”

“As a mother might protect her own son, her only son, unstinting even of her own life, even so should he cultivate a mind [of friendliness], setting no limits with respect to any beings.”
มารดาถนอมบุตรคนเดียวผู้เกิดในตน ด้วยชีวิต ฉันใด พึงเจริญเมตตามีในใจไม่มีประมาณ ในสัตว์ทั้งปวง แม้ฉันนั้น
(Karaṇīyamettā Sutta, Sn. 149)

The English translation will probably look rather different to others you are familiar with, for I have tried to make it clear that “own son” in the simile's vehicle should correspond to “mind” in the simile's tenor. That is to say, it is the mettā-yogi's thought of mettā that is to be acted upon in the manner of a mother guarding her own son. Every other English translation that I've seen either misleads the reader into supposing that “own son” corresponds to “all beings” or else leaves the correspondence unclear.
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